We haven’t visited Wakefield since some old friends moved away, unless you count staying with my younger brother in nearby Streethouse, but the new Barbara Hepworth gallery drew us over for a fine lunch and a leisurely look around the superb new Barbara Hepworth gallery. Our visit neatly complemented our holiday near St Ives last month, when we revisited Barbara Hepworth’s stunning Sculpture Garden, which was just as magical as we found it on our first visit, back in the 90’s. As a Yorkshireman, I’m particularly proud to see such a magnificent new gallery at the edge of town (remarkably easy to get to by car, too). The David Chipperfield designed building fits the space well, with the windows opening onto superb views of the Calder river, including a magnificent weir.
But the art inside is what counts and there is a great selection of Hepworth’s work, including 44 plaster and aluminium working models (which you are allowed to photograph, as Sue did, above), together with work by related artists (including Henry Moore, also from Wakefield, and celebrated at the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park, if you want a really full day out) and David Hockney from nearby Bradford, plus a good selection of her St Ives contemporaries. There are four short informative videos about aspects of her work and well curated displays about her working methods. Hepworth’s sculptures speak to me in a way that only Moore, her close contemporary (they studied together, although he was five years older) does. There’s something primal, mysterious, beautiful and totally self contained about her best work. It was also an obvious influence on my favourite modern ceramicist, Antonia Salmon, who lives in Sheffield (an influence you can see in her ‘Moonform’ ,above right). Are the Yorkshire connections a coincidence, or is there something about the landscape and inherited character in my love of her and Hepworth’s work? Dunno, but it gives me an opportunity to make my song of the week this classic track by one of my all time favourite groups (don’t ask me what the lyrics mean, I’ve never been able to figure them out). The other image above, btw, is the cover of ‘Maps’, an anthology with my essay about Graham Greene in Nottingham (which began as an entry on this blog) and loads more good stuff by people like Sara Jane Palmer, John Lucas, Andy Croft, Deirdre O’Byrne and Iain Sinclair. You can find out more and buy it here.